The immediate take on Google's Nexus One phone was that, while slick, it was no iPhone killer. Could be, but after spending a few days with our new Nexus we find it replacing both the Kindle and our Blackberry as a must-have companion.
When we got our first Kindle last March, we found it a perfectly satisfactory replacement not only for books but also for our daily dose of The Wall Street Journal (no walking down the driveway or trying to fold the paper while eating cereal).
But over time, we have found the low-contrast Kindle screen a bit hard on the eyes and we've grown tired of listening to press baron Rupert Murdoch complain about how everyone is "stealing" his content. (Note to Rupert: I pay you for home delivery of the WSJ, for Web access and for the Kindle edition. Last time I checked, that's not theft).
As for the Blackberry, it's a passable if bulky email device, a rather terrible telephone and not much else. If you wear it on your belt, it gets caught on everything and looks geeky. If you put it in your pocket, various keys get pressed as you move around, sending weird emails and placing calls to who knows who.
We were initially perturbed to find that the Nexus One, though unlocked, was -- as they say, at the end of the day -- really only usable on the T-Mobile network, though it worked excellently on our in-house Wi-Fi. A quick visit to the nearest T-Mobile kiosk got us up and running with a month-to-month, no-contract plan.
We have so far found T-Mobile's 3G network to rival our in-house Wi-Fi network for such everyday tasks as opening Web pages and scanning email. The big, beautiful high-resolution screen makes the Kindle display look like your third grade teacher's daily blackboard exercises. It makes the Blackberry look like a Model A Ford.
It makes calls!
We have also -- surprise -- found it be an excellent telephone. We've found it almost impossible to have a conversation on the Blackberry because of its constant drop-outs, fuzziness and other-worldly squawks and groans. But when we placed our first call on the Nexus One, we thought for a moment that we had accidentally picked up a wired phone by mistake.
The audio quality was excellent, signal strength was consistent and -- most important -- the Nexus displayed outstanding duplex capability, meaning that two people could talk simultaneously without causing drop-outs and static.
Speculation is that Google's strategic goal in selling its own phone is to give a boost to its Android operating system. If so, this is certainly the way to do it. The guys at the T-Mobile booth oohed and aahed over our Nexus One, the first one they had seen, the same reaction it's received from everyone except, of course, for iPhone fundamentalists who will brook no other orthodoxy than Apple.
This and other Android-powered phones will most likely have their strongest appeal for those who use other Google products, including Gmail and Google Search. It will immediately synch up to your Gmail and Google Voice accounts, something that can be problematic on other phones.
Physically, the Nexus looks pretty much like an iPhone, although it is a little bit thinner and lighter. Inside, it has a faster processor, a bit more memory and higher-resolution graphics. The battery is huge, which should make for long charge times.
Navigation, music, games and all the other must-haves all seem to work just fine, though we haven't had a lot of time to try them out.
So what's all this have to do with the Kindle?
Maybe nothing, but for months I have carried my Kindle around the way an addict carries a pack of cigarettes. When waiting at Starbucks, sitting glumly in a cab or subway or getting in some couch time, my first impulse has been to switch on the Kindle and read whatever I haven't yet gotten to in the Journal.
But the last few days, the Kindle has been left at home to keep the Blackberry company. When idle time presents itself, I flick on the Nexus One to scan Google News (eat your heart out, Rupert) and get up to date on whatever foolishness or horror has most recently afflicted what's left of the civilized world.
When in the horizontal mode, the Nexus screen looks huge and it's a snap to enlarge or shrink a particular page. With Google rapidly scanning books of all descriptions, it's only a matter of time, one suspects, before ordering up a free (if ad-infested) book on the Nexus will be as easy as ordering a Kindle copy from Amazon.
No doubt next-generation Kindles will have bigger, or at least better screens, but whether they'll have everything else the Android system can offer is debatable.
From what we've seen so far, the Nexus One is about as close to having the power of a desktop in your pocket as you're likely to get. One word of caution: Be sure you understand that the current model is compatible only with T-Mobile and, perhaps, certain regional carriers. You can't use it on your Verizon, AT&T or Sprint account. See our earlier review for the details.